Last Updated on August 16, 2021
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I ran a charity event a few years back. The biggest challenge by far wasn’t the logistics of space booking, nor was it managing volunteers. It was tracking down sponsors that’d provide us with the necessary funds, prizes, and equipment to run things adequately.
I’m certain my experience isn’t particularly unique. As an event organizer, there’s a high probability that you’ll occasionally need to supplement your budget with a sponsorship or two. Getting in touch with the necessary organization can seem complex, daunting, and downright overwhelming – but it doesn’t need to be.
Today, I’m going to go over a few best practices that every event management professional should engage in when seeking a sponsorship. Stick to these, and you should be able to find the perfect backer – corporate or otherwise – in no time. Let’s begin.
Know Your Demographic
The most important question you’ll ask yourself when looking into sponsorship opportunities actually has nothing to do with the sponsors themselves, at least not directly. It actually concerns the target demographic of your event. Who, exactly, is this event for?
You need to consider both the people who are participating and the people you’re targeting. Basically, you need to know how your guests think and feel as well as you do yourself. What that means is research.
Look up statistics on your ideal audience. What are their interests? What websites do they frequent, and what do they read? The more you know about your demographic, the better; a clearer knowledge of your target audience can help you more readily find brands and businesses that are willing to support your event .
Compile A List Of Prospective Sponsors
Once you’ve a notion of who you want to serve with your event, the next step is actually a pretty simple one. You’re going to look at a list of organizations that are affiliated with your industry and audience. Compile a list of companies that might potentially be interested in helping your event out.
When putting together this list, The Practical Sponsorship Ideas Blog recommends you consider the following factors:
- What products or services does the company specialize in?
- Who are their primary competitors?
- What connection do you have to the sponsor, if any?
- How much would they likely be willing to offer, at most?
- What competitors do you have in this industry? Is your sponsor likely to have associated with them in the past?
Don’t Just Focus On The “Big Guys”
Now, there’s one thing worth noting here: focusing exclusively on larger organizations is a mistake. While it’s true that the ideal situation for you would see a large, known brand backing you, the reality is that they’re kind of difficult to get in touch with unless you know the right people. What’s more, they’re probably going to be less willing to sponsor you even if you do manage to get through to them.
Small and mid-sized businesses, on the other hand, are likely far more inclined towards putting a bit of money into the event, especially if you can convince them that it’ll help them grow.
Start by doing a bit of searching, and keep going until you’ve a long, healthy list of potential partners. It can be as long as you’d like it to be, but in my experience, the more companies you contact, the better. Not all of them will get back to you or accept your offer.
Craft A Quick, Personalized Pitch For Each Sponsor – And Make It About Them
In a way, pitching to a sponsor isn’t all that different from pitching a business to a group of investors. In both cases, you’re going to want to start with a teaser – and you want it to be about the sponsor, not the event. In other words, consider what the sponsor gets out of backing you. What will your event do for their brand, exactly?
In other words, why should they care?
“Plan to pause after delivering your teaser to allow it to settle in for a few seconds,” advises Demand Media’s Kevin Johnston.
Once you’ve (hopefully) hooked your sponsor with the teaser, describe in brief what you’re trying to accomplish with your event, then go on to explain what direct benefits it’ll have for their company. It’s imperative that you show you’ve a clear understanding of their brand here. What are their goals, and how can you help them accomplish those goals?
It goes without saying that you’re going to need to do a fair bit of research into each sponsor in order to make your pitches as authentic as possible. Check out the company website, look at any branding they’ve placed around the Internet, look for them on social media, and search up any news/information about them that you can find on Google.
To refer back to the Practical Sponsorship Ideas piece, you should analyze your relationship with each partner based on the following factors:
- Relationship: Have you worked with this sponsor in the past? Do you have some sort of existing relationship with them? The better they know you, the likelier they’ll be to respond when you reach out.
- Objectives: What are they trying to accomplish, and how well does your event help them accomplish this?
- Audience: How similar is their target audience to your target demographic?
- Competition: Does their competition often sponsor events in order to market themselves?
- Attributes: How closely does the atmosphere of your event match the values of the sponsor? Disney, for example, is family-oriented, and wouldn’t generally support an auction carried out by a casino chain.
- Geography: Are they based out of the same region as you? A UK-based company isn’t likely to respond to a sponsorship request from a Canadian event management firm.
- Comfort: Is the sponsor comfortable with sponsoring your event? If they aren’t, can you convince them sponsorship’s in their best interests?
- Size: How large is the sponsor compared to the level of value your event provides? Apple probably won’t be willing to sponsor a food drive for a local Girl Scouts group, but it’d likely throw its weight behind a massive international tech conference.
Now, the piece advises you to rank each trait on a compatibility matrix, but that’s not entirely necessary. It’s probably enough to examine each sponsor in the context of the above factors; you should be able to get a decent feel for who you should and shouldn’t reach out to.
One last thing before we move on: don’t just offer media coverage or a marketing opportunity. Get specific. Give them context. For example:
“This event will give you some awesome coverage, and help you reach out to your core audience.” versus “There will be around three thousand people in attendance at this event, and it’ll have media coverage in several publications with a combined audience of 40,000.”
Offer Extra Incentives, With Different Sponsorship “Levels
Our next tip comes courtesy of Idealist’s Rebecca Mojica, who advises that event organizers set up several different ‘levels’ of sponsorship that businesses can buy into. Each level, naturally, will offer a unique set of incentives. These levels will be set at different financial endpoints depending on the size of your event, with higher ‘levels’ offering greater benefits.
“You should base your sponsor levels on the benefits to the company,” Mojica writes. “Put a price on each benefit you’ll offer and add the prices in each level. This will give you an idea as to the cost of a sponsorship.”
“Know in advance that you may have to be flexible and customize levels for some sponsors to meet their marketing needs,” she continues. “Some sponsors might be interested in a half cash, half in-kind (product donation) sponsorship. Food and beverage companies often would like to see their logo on T-shirts, hear their company name announced, etc. They may want to have a table or booth available to distribute their products.”
She concludes with a list of possible ‘rewards’ you could offer:
- Sponsor banner displayed at event
- Sponsor name announced at event
- Dinner table supported by sponsor (i.e., each person at the table receives a promotional item and literature from the sponsor and the sponsor’s logo is displayed at the table)
- Small sponsor banner or logo displayed on podium
- Sponsor name or logo in organization’s newsletter
- Sponsor name or logo in advertisements in newspapers and magazines
- Sponsor ad in program or flyer (ad size can range from business-card size to full page)
- Sponsor logo on organization’s website (can include a hotlink to their site)
- Sponsor logo on T-shirt
- Category exclusivity (a guarantee to sponsors that once they sign on, none of their competitors will be allowed to sponsor).
Always Follow Up
The most important thing to remember about sponsorships is that they’re part of an ongoing relationship with a business or brand. What that means is that you can’t simply treat your partners as extra lines in your budget – you need to actively cultivate rapport with them. Contact the businesses that agreed to sponsor you, and thank them for their patronage.
While you’re at it, thank the ones that refused for their time, says Mojica. You might actually bring in a few curious employees from the organization. If they enjoy it, you might well acquire a sponsor for your next event.
Contact your sponsors after the event too, to thank them for their participation. The goal here is to show them you aren’t solely interested in the money they have to offer. You want to make it clear that your aim is to actually work with them as a partner – not just as a sponsor.
As for those that didn’t get back to you don’t be afraid to reach out to them as well; plenty of businesses might not respond immediately (or at all) to the initial contact. Trying to reach them again could wind up netting you a few additional sponsors. Of course, it’s worth noting here that some businesses have a policy forbidding follow-ups – make sure you aren’t reaching out to any that do.
Consider Using A Sponsorship Platform
Here’s something a lot of event organizers don’t consider – I know I certainly didn’t. If you’re stuck on where to make up the gaps in your event’s budget, why not look into crowdfunding? Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are positively huge right now, and there are plenty of sites – such as Sponsor My Event – that are tailored specifically to event managers.
Make Sure Your Supplementary Stuff Looks Awesome
Just as you’re going to be doing a bit of research into your sponsors, you should expect them to look into your event. If you’ve an obtuse registration page, an unprofessional-looking Twitter feed or no presence at all on social media, that’s going to make a pretty awful first impression. You need to make sure all the content you’re using to support your event – from your registration platform to your Facebook Page to your firm’s website – looks good, and presents you in as positive a light as possible.
Promote As Much As Possible
You already know that you need to promote your event as much as possible – the same is generally true of your sponsors. You need to make sure you deliver on any promises you made to them, after all. The best way to do that is to include them in your event marketing and materials.
One last piece of advice before we wrap things up – avoid submission forms, sponsorship managers, and agencies. The former two are just there as gatekeepers, with no real power to influence the decisions of the prospective sponsor. The latter, meanwhile, is generally just an individual or firm looking to make a profit off of something you can honestly do yourself.
There’s one thing worth noting here, of course. While you should avoid people who aren’t decision-makers, you also shouldn’t go right to the top. The CEO of a fortune 500 company has better things to do than respond to every sponsorship request.
Trying to find someone to sponsor your event can be an intimidating task. It doesn’t need to be. So long as you know your firm and follow the advice laid out here, you should have no trouble tracking down the perfect partners for whatever event you’re running.
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